They form part of a new blueprint for nature-friendly developments, published by The Wildlife Trusts this week.
‘Homes For People and Wildlife - How to Build Housing in a Nature-friendly Way’ comes as Surrey’s green spaces face pressure from development like never before.
The Government wants to build 1.5 million homes across the UK by the end of 2022 – with more than 15,000 planned for sites across the county. About 36 square miles will be eaten up by new housing developments nationwide annually – that’s an area around twice the size of Dorking!
The Wildlife Trust’s report sets out a vision for new housing developments that allow people and wildlife to live and thrive together – they just need to be built in the right place and in the right way.
“A huge challenge lies ahead – thousands of new houses are to be built, yet we need to restore our natural world,” said Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Director of Biodiversity Sarah Jane Chimbwandira.
“So we’re calling on the government and local authorities to build beautiful, nature-friendly communities in the right places. Imagine if the starting point for decisions about housing was to map our woods, meadows, parks and river corridors and identify where new habitats are needed and then locate and design new housing around this. We need to start thinking differently."
Surrey Wildlife Trust already works with local authority planners, advising on some 1,250 planning applications every year to benefit wildlife and people. Its ecology experts liaise with developers to stand up for wildlife on sites across the county and ensure new buildings are designed with wildlife in mind.
A living, breathing example of a wildlife-friendly housing development is at Priest Hill in Epsom. Abandoned playing fields have been transformed to provide 15 new homes, alongside a brand-new nature reserve for the benefit of wildlife and the local community.
Surrey Wildlife Trust has worked with developer, Combined Counties Properties Ltd, to restore species-rich chalk grassland, which has led to the re-emergence of the small blue butterfly. A wildlife pond is also being created thanks to a £10,000 Tesco ‘Bags Of Help’ grant.
The Trust believes in a ‘Living Landscape’ where wildlife can thrive and move between both urban and rural areas. Research has shown that contact with nature makes us happier and healthier and building wildlife-friendly developments can benefit the community, the economy and developers too – so everyone is a winner.
“Over the past century we have lost natural habitats on an unprecedented scale. Yet nature has its own value - it makes us feel happier and we depend on the things that it gives us, such as food, water and fresh air,” added The Trust’s Sarah Jane Chimbwandira.
“Our new guidelines show people and wildlife can live together – so we can enjoy birdsong, reap the benefits of raingardens which soak up floodwater, and plants that bees and other pollinators need to survive. With good design, the costs of doing this are a tiny proportion of the overall cost of a housing development – but they represent a big investment for the future.”